CRYSTAL LAKE – Snow flying past the window of her new Crystal Lake office, Suzanne Hoban sat down with a hot cup of tea and tried to explain how this day she’d never seen coming was here.
Hoban and the staff of Family Health Partnership Clinic completed their move Monday to a $3.2 million facility at 401 E. Congress Parkway, Crystal Lake, opening the doors in the morning to the new center’s first patients.
The clinic, which provides health care to the uninsured and underinsured, now has twice as many exam rooms and more than double the space of the previous building in Woodstock. The small clinic Hoban originally opened in Harvard in the mid-1990s has expanded to a reach she’d never envisioned.
“We’ve now been operating for 17 years,” said Hoban, the clinic’s executive director. “I thought, well, surely we’re not going to need to be around for long because things will change and everybody will have access to health care.”
Instead, the clinic continued to grow through the years, jumping to new buildings as the needs increased. When it moved in 2003 to a 4,000-square-foot space at 13707 W. Jackson St., Woodstock, the clinic gained three exam rooms for a total of six.
But the clinic found itself outgrowing that space, too, and in 2008, Vince Foglia offered to put $1 million toward a new building.
“I said, ‘Vince, we’re not ready for it,’” Hoban remembered.
In early 2013, with the clinic having to turn away as many patients as it could accept, Hoban was ready. Management kicked off a fundraising effort to come up with the rest of the money. They’ve now raised, almost entirely through private donations, all but about $300,000 of the $3.2 million goal. The new building has 10,000 square feet and 12 exam rooms.
“Population-wise, this is a little more central, but it’s also a lot easier to get to than our other location,” Hoban said. “We’ve got the train right here. The Pace bus goes right through here. We’ve had nothing but really positive feedback from patients.”
The extra space also allows the clinic to take on more volunteers and partnerships. Through the years, the clinic has taken high school- and college-aged volunteers as well as area physicians, but limited space has meant they’ve had to turn many away.
Since the move, three doctors the Woodstock center couldn’t accommodate have now signed on to volunteer. The clinic has also entered into a partnership with Rush University. Four students of the nurse practitioner doctoral program will be helping out.
Such help allows the clinic to fulfill its mission of providing care to those who need it, but it also teaches young people about the importance of community health care, hopefully planting a seed that will bring them back to the endeavor after schooling, Hoban said.
“I will tell you that that is my secret plot to overthrow the world,” she said with a laugh. “Especially with these NP students, when they see how interesting and fun and gratifying community health care is, they’re going to want to go into that. So it’s completely subversive on my part.”
Martha Siomos, an assistant professor at Rush University Medical Center who facilitates the school’s partnership with FHPC, said the clinic provides real world training essential to developing critical thinkers.
Extenuating circumstances from transportation issues to mental health struggles complicate the cases students see at the clinic. Learning to work under less-than-ideal conditions and incorporate care into the realities of patients’ lives is a valuable skill in today’s world, Siomos said.
“There will be many more people in those situations as a new health care situation evolves and is developed,” she said.
With the extra help and extra space, the clinic will be able to take in more of the patients it turned away before. Some day, Hoban said, they’ll find room for all of them.
“We’ll have to ramp up to that, but that’s my goal – to never have to turn somebody away,” she said. “It won’t happen next week, it won’t happen next month, but it will happen.”